County board approves new ordinance limiting campaign contributions
SAN LUIS OBISPO COUNTY — A hearing to adopt new supervisorial district boundaries is set for April 18, but members of the public and supervisors had much to say about the recently repealed map at the Tuesday San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors meeting.
The map, approved by supervisors at the end of 2021, was repealed by the coalition San Luis Obispo County Citizens for Good Government (SLOCCGG), who sued the county in early January 2022. The suit was taken to state court under the allegations of “illegal partisan gerrymander under the Fair Maps Act and the California Constitution.”
In March 2023, a settlement was reached, leaving the county to again draw new boundary maps to comply with the Fair Maps Act. During public comment, members from both the SLOCCGG and the League of Women Voters of SLO County voiced their support for the repeal, while others highly disagreed with it.
Supervisors Debbie Arnold (District 5) and John Peschong (District 1) both voted no in the motion to approve the hearing.
“[In] telling the truth in that we have violated the Fair Maps Act — that has never been determined and certainly wasn’t the intent of any of the supervisors at the time,” said Arnold of the repealed map.
The 2021 approved map was given the green light by the previous board, which included Bruce Gibson (District 2), Lynn Compton (then District 4 supervisor), Dawn Ortiz-Legg (District 3), Arnold and Peschong.
Arnold further explained the 2021 map was approved as legal by the court and cited the reason for repeal due to discussion around the map and political parties was not heard. This notion was backed up by Peschong at the end of consent agenda comments. Gibson, Ortiz-Legg and Jimmy Paulding (District 4) all stated they would hold comments for the hearing on April 18.
Peschong’s reason for voting no to approving the hearing referenced a political cartoon from a local news source that pictured himself, Arnold, and Compton handing money to the SLOCCGG.
“I wont be supporting [agenda item] 6 today because I don’t want this cartoon to come true,” he concluded.
Supervisors have approved a new ordinance for campaign contributions in SLO County. In November 2020, the board adopted Ordinance No. 3429, which sets the campaign contribution limit to $25,000 per person. However, at the Jan. 24 meeting, the board directed staff to instead default to the state’s campaign contribution regulations. State regulations for the ordinance limits the campaign contribution for the period of Jan. 1, 2023, through Dec. 31, 2024, to $5,500 per person.
Arnold explained her reasoning for voting no on the new ordinance: “I think it benefits the public to be able to see where the money comes from. This is going to, in my mind, make it harder to know where the money comes from than easier.”
Some members of the public expressed concerns that the new ordinance makes campaign contributions less transparent, allowing more room for “shady money.”
Arnold and Peschong both said the county has never had a contribution limit prior to 2020.
Paulding supported the new ordinance, feeling it would help remove “big money” from politics: “I think this is one thing we can do to reduce the influence or potential influence that individuals, businesses, or political action committees have on the electoral process.”
Gibson disagreed with Arnold’s reasons to not move forward with the ordinance: “I don’t see the action we are taking today having any effect on transparency.”
After the supervisors’ discussion, the new ordinance was approved with 3-2 vote, Arnold and Peschong voting no.
With the approval of the new Ordinance No. 3429, the enforcement of campaign contribution limits now reverts to the Fair Political Practices Commission.
The next SLO County Board of Supervisors meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, April 18, at 9 a.m.